Saturday, February 4, 2023

MTSU Raising Awareness: Mental Health Wellness and Suicide Prevention Fair 2021

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Take a compliment, leave a compliment activity

Story and Photos by Bren Jackson | Contributing Writer

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. In recognition of this, Middle Tennessee State University Counseling Services hosted their annual Mental Health Wellness and Suicide Prevention Fair on campus.

The event took place Sept. 22 inside the Student Union from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

University Counseling Services partnered with several other departments to host the event: the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, Student Government Association, Blue Raiders Drink Up, and Collegiate 100 Black Men of MTSU.

The various staff members and students involved offered information and resources on these heavy topics of mental health struggles, suicide, sexual abuse and domestic violence in a way that would both educate and support attendees.

Student Government member Jasmine Washington, leading a conversation about suicide prevention and mental health at her table, remarked that, “this way we are helping people. We’re spreading awareness”. 

Just a few tables down, Maigan Wipfli of the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students was discussing awareness on a myriad of topics.

Her table featured a compelling display of 1,100 black flags, representing the approximate average number of college students that commit suicide each year. Students were encouraged to write a message of encouragement on a red flag and place it among the 1,100.

Jasmine Washington and Maigan Wipfli next to The Power of One’s Sexual Violence and Abuse Trivia Wheel

Wipfli also led a trivia wheel game that tested attendees’ knowledge of dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and warning sings of sexual assault. 

“We also are trying to end the stigma that a lot of students feel about mental health in general—their own wellness in different areas of their lives. That is why we do these events,” Wipfli said.

With open conversation and candy as a reward, this discussion of important topics was made informational and fun.

Licensed Dietician Kayla Huff brought attention to another serious topic while explaining the purpose of her table, saying, “A lot of times, mental health plays into what we eat, what we drink and just kind of how we treat our bodies”.

The registered nutritionist and her counterpart from Blue Raiders Drink Up spoke about body image and its effect on mental wellness, displaying a mirror covered in kind words to combat negative self-talk. 

Other interactive activities and games at this fair included DIY stress balls, rock painting, Mental Health Jeopardy, Power of One’s “Empower the One Workbook: An Activity and Resource Manual Created To Empower You!”, a mindfulness meditation tent, and a ‘Take One, Leave One’ sticky note of encouragement station. These creative games emphasize good coping strategies for managing mental health. 

As a whole, the event was good insight into the way MTSU addresses the challenges its students face. When asked their opinions on the university’s efforts, many at the event had good feedback.

“I really applaud the fact that they are being, again, proactive and just letting people know that ‘Hey, there’s someone to talk to,’” commented Joshua C. Gray of the Collegiate 100 Black Men of MTSU.

Washington noted her approval of the university’s resources as well, saying, “Many people—they don’t take this stuff seriously. They view it as ‘Oh! You’re just being moody, or you’re just acting for attention,’ They don’t see the big picture. I think it’s really important.”

The student response to the event was very positive. Reaching out, planning events and providing an array of resources seems to be working. Maigan Wipfli made a great point while addressing any shortcomings of outreach and support. She says, “While I do think that we have a great set of resources on this campus, just like any university, we could always do more.”

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